Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Visit - Movie Review

The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan's take on the found footage horror genre in conjunction with Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions label which has been responsible for franchises like Paranormal Activity and Insidious. The movie stars Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, and Kathryn Hahn.

The Story:
Becca and Tyler (DeJonge and Oxenbould) are sent off to spend a week with their grandparents while their mom (Hahn), who hasn't seen or talked to her parents in 30 years, gets to spend some quality time with her new boyfriend. Becca, an aspiring film maker, has chosen this trip to film a documentary about their experience in hopes of finding a way to bring their mom and grandparents back together. When they arrive at the old farmhouse where their Nana and Pop Pop live, everything seems pretty normal although, after the first couple nights, things start to get a little creepy to the point where they begin to fear for their safety.

The Review:
It was very interesting to see this film take shape as it treads very similar ground as other found footage films yet still manages to not seem tired or overdone. Part of this is due to the fact that Becca has some skill behind the camera so the whole shaky cam thing is often left alone in favor of actual tracking shots and more carefully crafted scenes which proved to be a very smart move by the director. This allowed Shyamalan to keep a cinematic quality to the narrative allowing the viewer to really settle into the story, which becomes more and more important as the twists and turns are slowly revealed, rather than being distracted by gimmicky camera tricks.

I liked the fact that Shyamalan's story immediately zeroes in on the five main characters and follows each of them closely rather than trying to flesh them out by showing them interact with other random people. This was also effective in giving an underlying sense of isolation for the kids and an uncertainty about who these kooky old people are and how um...eccentric, they might actually be. In my opinion, child actors can often be a little too annoying for their own good although both Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are quite good in the roles they are given. Becca is a very smart and brave young woman while her younger brother Tyler is more of a comedian and self proclaimed ladies man which, coming from a 13 year old, is a great source of comedy throughout the film. There is a very familiar and natural quality to each their performances which is something Shyamalan has shown an ability to get out of younger actors, a prime example being Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.

While Shyamalan has had a rough stretch of misses over the last several years, he proves here that he is still a very capable film maker and I wonder how much of an influence Jason Blum had on helping him to get back into form and with this genre in particular. Whatever the reason for the director's resurgence, I am glad to see it happen as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are two outstanding films and I would love to see him be able to get back to that level. Now, I'm not saying The Visit is anywhere near those films in overall quality but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

The Verdict:
The Visit is a solid effort by a man who is just as well known for making really bad movies as he is for having created some of the best films of his generation. The found footage genre itself is filled with big hits and even bigger misses and I would have to say this movie once again falls somewhere in the middle. Fans of horror movies and the found footage sub genre should like this film although I'm not sure if there's enough there to bring in a wider audience. It's a good enough movie for me to tell you to go see it although I doubt if it will have any real staying power at the box office.


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